Heather Mills on amputee support, overcoming personal injury and succeeding in the face of adversity: Part 1
After losing her leg in 1993, media personality, business woman and activist Heather Mills shot into the public eye for her tireless campaigning and charity work.
Since then, Heather has admirably strived to change people’s perceptions of the stigma related to having a disability, won dozens of awards, founded one the largest vegan food companies in the world, set world records, competed on Channel 4’s The Jump – to name just a few accomplishments – and is an overall inspiration to not only those who have been affected by personal injury, but the general public.
The Personal Truths team caught up with Heather, to discuss the challenges and achievements she’s experienced since being affected by personal injury.
Personal Truths Team: You were hit by a police motorcycle in August 1993, can you tell us more about what happened?
Heather: I spent four years on the front line in the former Yugoslavia without any injury, then returning from the Balkan crisis in 1993, to advise the Shadow Defence Secretary of the situation, I was involved in a road traffic accident with a police motorcycle in London. I had my left leg amputated below the knee, suffered a fractured skull, crushed pelvis, broken ribs and a punctured lung.
My accident brought me into the attention of the public eye and I believe it was my destiny, as it enabled me to help war torn amputees and raise awareness of the horrors of landmines, as I was never injured in a high risk war.
“I get so excited to see Paralympic and everyday living amputees benefit from all our committed work.”
PT: What did you find most challenging during the first year of your recovery?
Heather: There were a few challenges including learning to walk again and learning to understand the dynamics of wearing a prosthetic leg – which were only developed in a very basic format at the time of my accident.
I wanted a real life looking leg, not a cumbersome thing offered to me on the NHS. I was determined to have a beautiful looking leg so, I worked very closely with prosthetic centres and I changed the way prosthetic legs were designed and developed, cosmetically and in sport. I get so excited to see Paralympic and everyday living amputees benefit from all our committed work.
Another challenging aspect, of being classed as “disabled,” was how I was perceived by “able bodied” people. I felt you’re almost looked upon as incapable of anything anymore and that made you somehow incompetent too. I have campaigned righteously to challenge and change people’s perceptions of the stigma related to having a disability, by overcoming adversity and breaking records a lot of people never could, to prove how powerful the mind is.
Funnily enough overcoming the loss of my leg was something that I got my head around within two weeks. I just thought to myself, “right then, I better get on with this,” which I put down to having a much harder childhood than the difficulties of my injury.
PT: Did you face challenges living with a prosthetic and if so, how did you overcome these?
Heather: After you lose a limb, there can be a lengthy process involved in obtaining a comfortable fitting prosthetic.
Your residual limb (stump) can change shape, due to a number of reasons, such as reducing in size due to an inflammation during the initial healing process, general weight gain or weight loss. This will affect the socket fitting of the prosthetic leg size. An ill-fitting socket, can lead to blisters, bleeding, milia’s (small cysts, or white bumps) which is very painful, but be reassured this is completely normal.
The best thing you can do is to keep your limb clean and dry. Exercise and nutrition is optimum for keeping your body and your limb healthy. In my opinion, veganism and a plant based diet is the way forward to keeping the body and brain functioning to the best of its ability. Stable and consistent weight is also essential to minimise your residual limb problems…
Please visit the ‘amputee support’ section on my website, where I’ve shared lots of tips and advice for amputees, their families and friends.
“When you’re out, don’t be intimated about asking for disability access or help if you require it.”
PT: Did you have to adapt your home or any other aspects of your daily routine?
Heather: I drive an automatic car and love to have a long soak in the bath after busy day, but that is it!
So many establishments now cater for people with disabilities, in wheelchairs and with limited mobility. When you’re out, don’t be intimated about asking for disability access or help if you require it. Many people do want to help, but they themselves feel too embarrassed to ask, so just ask.
PT: What help did you initially receive and who from?
Heather: After several months in hospital my left leg was not healing and I just kept getting infection, after infection. They kept amputating more and more, then one day the hospital team told me that it looked like they would have to amputate above the knee if the infection continued to spread. My girlfriend, who was in remission from breast cancer, told me about this amazing clinic in America called Hippocrates and how they had cured her breast cancer.
So, as soon as I was able to be discharged from the hospital I was on a flight to Hippocrates. They put me on a vegan (I had no idea what this was at the time) and a raw wheatgrass juice diet. I had to rub pure raw garlic into my wound every day and juice wheatgrass as well as follow a vegan diet. Unbelievably my leg healed and the infection completely disappeared within two weeks.
This was the beginning of my journey into Veganism.
Don’t miss part two of our exclusive interview with Heather coming soon…
For more insights and amputee support from Heather, visit her website here: